A bad man is better than a bad name. An English equivalent of the Hindi proverb ‘badd sey badnaam bura’, it means so much more in politics. That’s the existential quandary of the BJP’s since tarred ‘trinity’ of good governance: Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Vasundhara Raje and Raman Singh.
Allegations of nepotism, corruption and conflict of interest have dented their reputation as regional leaders of national promise.
If Chouhan is dogged by Vyapam in MP, Vasundhara has her Lalitgate in Rajasthan. Raman’s endearing “chawal wale baba” image — that saw him lead his party to three consecutive electoral victories in Chhattisgarh — also has taken a knock amid charges of graft in procurement of rice for public distribution.
In seeking to brazen out rather than make way for credible probes without loss of time, they acted no differently than their UPA counterparts.
The Vyapam narrative reminded one of the 2G scam that had a prevaricating Manmohan Singh regime suffer a double-jeopardy: CBI investigations under the SC’s watch and a joint parliamentary committee (JPC) inquiry.
In politics, as in life, a stitch in time saves nine. But the conventional wisdom is often lost on the political class. The CBI probe into Vyapam is on the SC’s directive, not the MP CM’s plea to the high court. It was hard to miss in the unfolding events shades of the 2G issue that reached the court while the UPA stalled demands for a JPC.
The BJP’s 2014 victory is largely credited to Narendra Modi. But on the ground, the trinity constituted a formidable supporting cast the Congress failed to match in key battlegrounds.
Questions now being raised about their probity are sure to dent the party’s plank of good corruption-free governance in BJP-ruled states. The first test of it would be in Bihar.
A victory in the state ruled by Nitish Kumar is imperative for Modi to keep his primacy in national politics.
The talking points he deploys in the campaign where he’ll be the BJP’s face against the Bihar CM — unless reports of Sushil Modi’s projection prove correct — would have to be substantially different from the LS polls he won hands down.
An intelligent guess could be that he’d posit his government’s pro-people initiatives with contradictions inherent in the expeditious Nitish-Lalu-Congress entente.
A glimpse of it was in senior BJP leader Shahnawaz Hussain calling the CM “Nitish Prasad” to drive home his dependence on an overbearing Lalu.
But the saffron party would need to tread carefully. For the invincibility the PM exuded a year ago seems to be on the wane. The return fire to his salvos from the Nitish-Lalu duo won’t be easy to handle in what could well be the ‘best argued’ election in recent memory.
The JD(U) is off the block already with a jibe on BJP chief Amit Shah who termed as poll-time rhetoric Modi’s promise of recovering and sharing with the people unaccounted monies stashed in banks abroad: “Bahut hua jumlon ka vaar, phir eik baar Nitish Kumar.”
Watch out for a riposte to that when Modi lands in Muzaffarpur on July 25 for his maiden election rally.
Vinod Sharma is the Political Editor of Hindustan Times. The views expressed are personal.